Although women represent half of the population of Peru, they do not have equal access to resources or power. Assumptions about women’s roles in society and at home often obstruct access by women to influential roles in both the public and private sectors. Due to prejudice and discrimination, women historically have suffered disproportionately from the country’s pervasive poverty and unemployment. Although human rights issues affect many sectors of the population, there are some violations which are gender – based, or affect women to a greater extent due to prevailing patriarchal systems. In addition, race and class may worsen women’s position in Peruvian society.
Girls and women are well behind boys in educational terms. In rural areas, 33.7 % of women are illiterate, against 10.9% of men. In urban areas this is far lower, with 7.4 % of women and 2.4 % of men not being able to read and write. This clearly indicates the rural-urban divide. This has also an effect on rural women’s ability to speak Spanish, and hence on their ability to engage with institutional structures.
Fertility rates have gone down substantially the last 15 years. While this is in part the result of aggressive population policies during the Fujimori regime (1990-2000), improved access to reproductive health services is allowing women to better decide how many children they want. While rural women still have more children than they desire (3.6 children instead of 2 in 2008), this is far better then the 5.6 children they had on average in the mid-1990s. In urban areas a similar pattern can be found, the desired number of children women want is 1.5, while the actual average number of children was 2.1 in 2008. Access to reproductive health care and personal autonomy to decide over birth control increases with increasing educational levels and income. Hence, non-Spanish speaking rural women, in general the most marginalised, have far more children than their urban and educated counterparts. The legalisation of different methods of birth control has been a long process, and is far from over. Currently, the abortion debate has re-emerged with a bill to decriminalise abortion in cases of rape or harm to the foetus.
Political representation has increased substantially with a quota for parties to include at least 30 % of both sexes on their lists. This has especially improved women’s participation in local and regional politics. Apart from poverty, which affects women disproportionately because of their care taking roles and their lesser access to paid employment, violence is probably the most concerning problem. While there is not much current data, the comparative WHO study of 2005 cites that 61 and 49% percent of rural and urban women respectively have suffered domestic violence in their lifetime. Other studies show similar high numbers of violence against women, including feminicide. During January 2009 twenty-three women were recorded to have been killed, while in 2008 the monthly recorded rate was fifteen women, This indicates that gender relations are far from equal, and that the reduction of poverty, social and political inequality, access to education and unequal income distribution must be addressed in order to ameliorate the situation of women in Peru today; only with the equality of women in public and private life will women be able to enjoy their full human rights.
Lord Brenan QC
Ann Clwyd MP
Linda Fabiani MSP
Reverend Ed O'Connell
Professor William Rowe
Rosemary Thorp CBE
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